Portland diner, delis targeted in Back Cove crime spree

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PORTLAND — Police are investigating a series of overnight burglaries at businesses in the Back Cove area.

The break-ins are the latest crimes in an area where residents came together during the summer after what was perceived as an increase in home and vehicle burglaries. The residents set up a neighborhood crime watch.

Police made arrests in the neighborhood this summer, but residents say the car and home break-ins have continued. Most recently a Codman Street family found their back door kicked in and a stranger sleeping on their couch.

Portland Police Lt. Gary Rogers said police responded to three commercial burglaries within a five-day period earlier this month.

“They are not necessarily linked to the car and home burglaries,” Rogers said.

The first business broken into was Back Cove Deli on Ocean Avenue. Employees arriving for work a little before 6 a.m. Oct. 15 reported the crime. According to Rogers, the phone and alarm wires were cut and forced entry was gained to the building through a side door.

“The cash register was pried open,” Rogers said, and cash was taken.

On Oct. 18th at about 4:25 a.m., police responded to Steve & Renee’s Diner at the corner of Washington Avenue and Veranda Street. Rogers said a man called in and reported to police that while he was riding his bicycle near the business he saw three men carrying a cash register.

The diner was entered through a side window.

Borealis Bread, at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Walton Street, was burglarized between 3 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. Oct. 19. An employee reported the crime when arriving to open the store around 6 a.m.

“The phone and alarm wires were cut there, too,” Rogers said. Forced entry to the building was gained through a door, and the cash register was pried open.

Rogers said police believe the three crimes are related.

Rogers said that despite the focus on the Back Cove neighborhood, statistically there has not been an increase in crime in the area. City-wide, he said that in the past month there have been 30 burglaries in the city. The four weeks prior to that, there were 40.

For the year to date, police have responded to 371 burglaries, down from 410 to date in 2009.

Joan Barkin, who along with her husband Jeff started a Back Cove Crime Watch Google group so neighbors could communicate, said she had not heard any additional details of the commercial burglaries. She said neighbors continue to be concerned about vehicle and home break-ins.

And while nothing has been organized yet, she said a small group in the neighborhood is considering setting up walking patrols.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]